26

There's a tradition of sorts in sci-fi where aliens or future humans use profanity that doesn't exist in the real world. I'm curious when this started. Which story or novel is the first time the writer made up profanity? It's acceptable if they used real profanity in addition to their made up profanity.

  • could you provide some examples of made-up profanity? At the moment I can't even recall any in the first place to be honest :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 29 '11 at 17:21
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    @DVK Frak. – user366 Mar 29 '11 at 17:28
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    @DVK Farscape had quite a bit - frell, dren, hezmana. Larry Niven's books used TANJ - There Ain't No Justice. – user1027 Mar 29 '11 at 17:40
  • @DVK @Mark Trapp And felgercarb. – Michael Todd Mar 29 '11 at 19:09
  • You actually might get a more thoroughly researched response to this on the English SE site, although I don't know if words coined solely for fiction would be within the scope of allowed questions there. – neilfein Apr 2 '11 at 16:06
22

E E "Doc" Smiths Lensmen series (published between 1934 and 1948) included fictional profanity, at least in passing.

There's a scene where someone is transcribing a conversation in an alien tongue where one of the parties blanches at the use of an insult, the strongest in the language. In english it was something like "Shronizfied" with the meaning "descended from countless generations of muck living flatworm".

I'll dig the books out of storage and see if I can find an exact quote. [Nice to have a reason to re-read a classic ... ;-) ]

  • He also uses a number of adjectives in place of profanity... one can readily replace starkly with the F*bomb and not change the meanings... – aramis Mar 30 '11 at 21:27
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    "Srizonified" is from Masters of the Vortex, and hence is relatively late. Kinnison, however, was swearing by Klono (a god nobody believed in with numerous alliterative body parts) pretty much from his introduction. – David Thornley Apr 2 '11 at 2:10
  • That's the word - though I though it was earlier in the series. – Bevan Apr 2 '11 at 3:23
12

Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange" was written in 1962, and contained an entire lexicon of "Nadsat" slang. Some of those words are clearly intended as profanities.

Aldus Huxley's "Brave New World" predates that by quite a bit (1931), but I'd say its debatable whether the terminology in there really equates to profanity ("Gamma minus", a designation from the novel's caste system, is probably the closest thing to a profanity, although "soma", the name given to a fictional drug, is probably the most clearly "made-up" word).

There may very well be other examples, but these are the ones I could think of. While I think it's a great question, I'm not sure we'll get a real, definitive answer.

  • We might not get the answer, but I think the community can find a pretty good answer. I'll settle for the latter if we can't find anything concrete. – user1027 Mar 29 '11 at 23:05
  • Much of Clockwork Orange's expletives are simply borrowed from other languages. – aramis Mar 30 '11 at 21:28
  • @aramis Very true. The nadsat language is a polyglot of several different languages, slangs, and made-up words. From wikipedia: "It is a mix of modified Slavic words, rhyming slang, derived Russian (like "baboochka"), and words invented by Burgess himself." – Beofett Mar 31 '11 at 0:45
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    Soma is not a made up word. It is taken from Sanskrit, referring to a ritual drink. – Adele C Jan 29 '12 at 17:40
9

In Foundation and Empire (1952) Asimov use the word Galaxy as an obscenity, often emphasizing the middle syllable (gal-LAX-y). While not a fictional word, it is a fictional obscenity.

8

Larry Niven was using the term "TANJ" in the Known Space universe in the mid to late 60's.

TANJ -> There Aint no Justice

I'm sure there are works prior to that though.

  • Is that profane or just an expression? – Omar Kooheji Mar 29 '11 at 21:15
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    It is profanity. Niven used it in place of actual swearing. – user1027 Mar 29 '11 at 23:00
  • yah. It's used mainly as a replacement of where in current western culture you'd say "darn", "christ", or "sh*t". – jwenting Mar 31 '11 at 10:32
5

In Glory Road Robert Heinlein does actually discuss the use of profanity, and uses a word he considers profane.

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Courtesy of Google Book Search

2

Mork and Mindy had Shazbott that's 1978. Probably not the oldest but definitely an example of it.

0

In "I Will Fear No Evil" Heinlein used the word "kark" as an expletive. Now a Google search reveals that it is all over the Star Wars universe. What gives?

0

In Triplanetary, Ralph Kinnison describes an incompetent official (to his face) as lacking "the brains that God gave bastard geese in Ireland". One of the more original bits of invective.

-1

Star Wars (at least the extended universe) has a fairly robust set of profanity.

Therefore it was ~1977 at the latest.

I'm sure it was earlier, though, just can't think of any examples.

  • We don't see it in Ep IV... and in fact, I don't recall it until Ep V or later... and not in the movies, at all, until the release of Ep I. BSG, however, had several choice substitute words (Frak being the most common). – aramis Mar 30 '11 at 21:31
  • The novelizations, however, certainly do. – Jeff Mar 31 '11 at 13:36
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    But the novels also never have any sort of consistency, between two authors, you'll have two different sets of profanity. My favorite was when someone (the author of Death Star) used the word "milk" as a profanity. – dkuntz2 Apr 1 '11 at 4:26
  • Many of the SW novels aren't cannon, either... – aramis Apr 1 '11 at 9:22
  • The SW novels are all canon, unless they've contradicted the movies. They are C or S canon, as seen here: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1806/… – Jeff Apr 1 '11 at 13:07

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